Whether it’s the latest buzzword or corporate trend, understanding what to pay attention to and what to ignore can be difficult as well as damaging, if you get it wrong.
Ongoing technological change is a major challenge for many businesses, with the rollout of new systems, networks and data services set to hasten as 2019 unfolds.
While the scope of change is vast, this article will focus on five tech trends for the year ahead. Some of these items are actionable, while others are simply shifts in the broader business landscape that will inevitably affect the way we work in the near future.
Introduction of 5G
While 5G wireless networks have been in testing for a number of years, 2019 is the year predicted that we will start to see its benefits.
The technology will not replace our existing wireless networks but instead combine the benefits of 2G, 3G, 4G/LTE, wired technology and WiFi into one platform that provides density, high speeds and reliable connections at low power.
In layman terms, 5G means more connected devices and faster everything. 5G specifications suggest that users will experience 100 megabits per second as their base download speed – that’s Australia’s fastest NBN speed as a minimum.
While we know how necessary a fast and stable internet connection is to today’s business, low latency is becoming just as critical.
Latency refers to information going out and coming back in to your device. This is critical to support the increasing number of connected devices, as well as emerging technologies such as self-driving cars. With the advent of 5G, latency could be reduced by up 60 times compared with current technology, ultimately improving the accuracy and effectiveness of connected devices.
Telstra and Optus plan to commercially roll-out their 5G networks in 2019, with Vodafone set to follow in 2020.
Voice as an emerging customer channel
With the rise of smart speakers and voice assistants such as Google Home, Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, ‘voice’ is beginning to emerge as an important channel for organisations.
No longer just gimmicky devices used to find out the weather or listen to your favourite song, voice-enabled smart devices are starting to be used to purchase products and interact with a broader range of services.
Amazon – which sells 76 per cent of the smart speakers in the US – estimates that almost one in three people will experiment with making a purchase through their voice-assistant, Alexa, next year.
Google is more bullish, stating that the vast majority of people who have a voice-activated device already use it as part of their daily routine.
Organisations need to consider voice in two ways. Firstly, customers will increasingly expect to search for goods and services through voice channels; and secondly that they expect to get answers, interact and engage with the brand via audio.
While voice presents great opportunities for automation, sales and enhancing the customer experience, it will require that organisations be prepared to deal with the trend.
Ultimately voice will require both marketing and IT teams to change the way their customers can interact with their brand and products. This will mean that today’s websites and apps will be complemented with integrated voice services that will add complexity to the omnichannel strategy many companies have been investing in for years.
Cryptocurrency and blockchain
It wouldn’t be a list of modern technology trends without a mention of blockchain and cryptocurrency.
Coming off a tumultuous 18-month period, during which cryptocurrency rose and then crashed, many are left sceptical about the future of the crypto market.
Bitcoin, the largest and best-known cryptocurrency, caused a tidal wave of uncertainty when it came crashing down in value by 80 per cent from its all-time high.
Similarly, the dramatic rise last year of initial coin offerings (ICOs) – a way to raise capital against the value of new coins – also ended in a crash, with an estimated 92 per cent failure rate.
While the cryptocurrency bubble of 2017 and 2018 will be used as a case study in hype cycles and bubbles for years to come, its underpinning technology, blockchain, is coming into its own.
From speed to security, there are many advantages of using a blockchain network.
Consider the benefits of sending money, IP, contracts, votes or even energy credits (such as what we’ve seen through local company Power Ledger) via the internet, without a middle man.
While it’s not easy to tell you how to make use of it, it is easy to imagine why this is an attractive technology for businesses today.
In 2019, we can expect to see an increasing number of use-cases for blockchain outside of cryptocurrency, as the technology moves out of the novel and into the realm of utility.
Ethical data usage
There were big changes to the data privacy scene in 2018, notably with the implementation of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Off the back of large data breaches, such as with Facebook’s 2018 hack that affected 29 million accounts, consumers are becoming increasingly distrustful about the use and storage of their data.
Better-informed consumers understand that their data is incredibly valuable and their online fingerprint needs to be protected, safeguarded and given out with limitations.
Organisations that fail to protect their customer data not only are at risk of a financial penalty but, more importantly, long-lasting public relations and branding damage.
In 2019 it is critical, more than ever, to have an understanding of the vulnerabilities of your business systems and the measures being taken to ensure customers’ data rights are upheld in an ethical and technologically appropriate way.
Convergence of tech trends
While the above list provides a snapshot summary of some of the trends that may impact businesses in 2019, it is the confluence of these forces that is most important. One trend may not alter an organisation’s course in the short term, but the fact that all these trends (and many more) are occurring simultaneously is the real trend to watch.
As artificial intelligence and machine learning is combined with technologies such as smart-assistants, 5G wireless networks, blockchain and the increasing prevalence of data as an asset, the landscape of business begins to look remarkably different.
This year feels very much like the beginning of a whole new world – the promised ‘Jetson’ era of integrated technologies seamlessly entering all aspects of our lives, work and businesses.